The interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” anchor Chuck Todd drew attention to the fact that the District will be alone among the nation’s top 50 cities this year in having women in all three top leadership roles.
“How fitting for the nation’s capital to have three women in charge, women who have gotten things done in this city for years,” Bowser (D) said when asked by Todd about the distinction. “We want to the whole world to know we are a city on the move.”
Immediately before the show, Todd appeared on the network’s local morning news program to explain why he chose the panel of Bowser, Lanier and Henderson for a newscast almost exclusively devoted to national politics.
“Here we talk about how Washington will change when women are in charge: Janet Yellen, head of the Fed; Hillary Clinton could be the first woman president,” Todd said. “Well, guess what, the city is already now run by all women.”
Early on in the seven-minute “Meet the Press” interview that followed, Todd paused to note that his wife, Kristian Denny Todd, worked for Bowser’s campaign.
“Full disclosure, my wife worked as a paid adviser to Muriel Bowser’s mayoral campaign in 2014,” Todd said.
Denny Todd’s name does not appear separately on Bowser’s campaign finance reports, but Maverick Strategies and Mail LLC, a firm she founded and where she was formerly a principal, was paid more than $634,000 last year by Bowser’s campaign. Denny Todd is now with Maverick Strategies. The financial relationship between the two firms is not clear from District campaign finance disclosures.
In the interview, Bowser was asked about the District’s historically tense relationship with Congress, and she initially played it down. The relationship is likely to be tested as District leaders decide how far to press in implementing a voter-approved ballot measure to follow Colorado and Washington state in legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Republican House members say a provision in a federal budget measure passed last month prevents the city from moving forward.
“We’re a city and a county and a state all at once, so we do have a unique relationship with the Congress, and we’re looking forward to working with the new Congress and are optimistic about those relationships,” Bowser said.
Pressed by Todd about the marijuana measure, however, Bowser eventually said all options remain on the table.
“Congress basically said no,” Todd said. “Are you going to challenge Congress on that?”
“Well, we want to respect the will of the D.C. voters, and we think that Initiative 71 is self-
enacting,” the mayor said, using a legal term that proponents of the ballot measure say means Congress can’t effectively stop the city from legalizing pot.
“The bottom line for us is we have to have laws that are clear and enforceable,” Bowser said.
“Are you going to sue Congress over this?” Todd asked.
“We want to work with our Congress, and we want the will of the residents of D.C. to be enforced.”
“Have you ruled out a lawsuit?” Todd repeated.
“We’re going to explore every option,” Bowser said.
The “Meet the Press” interview gave Henderson, the schools chief, a chance to plug D.C. Public Schools, which experienced larger gains in scores on recent math and reading tests than any other major urban school system — though the system still trails the large-city average.
The appearance also highlighted that under Lanier, protests that have swelled nationally over alleged police brutality have largely remained peaceful in the nation’s capital.
“The focus on Ferguson [Mo.], the focus on what happened in Staten Island. It’s a challenge to a lot of police forces. You haven’t had these issues in your department,” Todd said.
“I think it’s really about building those strong relationships with the community, and you really have to do it every single day,” Lanier said. “You can’t do it in crisis. You do it every day, and the community trusts and supports you.”
In an appearance earlier Sunday on NBC’s “News4 Today,” Bowser said her early decisions to keep Lanier and Henderson were designed to make sure the District would retain the best leaders of prior administrations.
“It was important to me after I won the primary in April to send a signal to all of the cities around the country that you can’t have our chief, and that’s what I did,” Bowser said.
Speaking of crime, the mayor said she would still push Lanier to improve the department.
“As mayor, my job is to never be satisfied,” Bowser said. “Any amount of crime on our streets is too much.”
She also hinted that domestic violence would be a policing priority during her term. “We want to make sure that our young people and men and women in their homes are safe, and I think that is the next frontier in policing,” she said.
Bowser continued to express skepticism about a 37-mile streetcar system, the first leg of which, on H Street and Benning Road NE, has been plagued by delays.
“Our Metro system is really the engine of this region, and we have to make sure that system has the money that it needs to continue,” Bowser said, adding that she wants to “right-size” the streetcar program.
“I don’t think ‘expand’ is the word; I like the word ‘right-size,’ ” Bowser said. “We have a $1 billion plan on the table, and we have to figure out how to get H Street right first and figure out what lessons we need to take to other parts of the city, but we shouldn’t let that dominate our public transit conversation.”
Bowser said she was intrigued by the speed with which the city could begin new bus routes and create designated lanes for buses along busy thoroughfares.
“I think, really, our future is in the bus,” she said.
Bowser also disclosed that inside the District’s municipal building on Pennsylvania Avenue, her office will be more accessible than under her predecessor. Bowser said that when she goes to work Monday, her office will be with her top aides’ on the third floor of the building. Previously, the mayor’s office has been by itself, on the sixth floor.